Can you be "gender harassed" — i.e., subject to discrimination — in the workplace without being subject to unwanted sexual advances? It seems obvious, but it's more complex than it sounds.
A new study out of the University of Michigan defines "gender harassment" as "verbal and nonverbal behaviors that convey insulting, hostile and degrading attitudes to women." The study found that such relatively indirect types of workplace behavior had "negative personal and professional outcomes," and the authors argue that "there is a case for interpreting existing legislation as including gender harassment, so that it is recognized as a legitimate and serious form of sex-based discrimination in the workplace."
The samples were women in the military and working in federal legal practice. According to the summary of the study, "In the military, victims scored significantly lower on all work attitudes and reported greater performance decline due to both physical and emotional health. They also described less overall psychological well-being and health satisfaction and had more thoughts and intentions of leaving their jobs. Among attorneys, gender-harassed women reported lower satisfaction with professional relationships and higher job stress."
The comparison sample was "non-victims," which seems rather tough to define. As does "gender harassment," in general, which, extended to a variety of behaviors, becomes equated with the fact that we live in a sexist society. Still, it's useful to think about how a hostile work environment means more than just your superior making your promotion contingent on sleeping with him.
Describing or critiquing anything more subtle often gets chalked up to feminist hysteria or sour grapes (ahem).